Cinephiles of Sydney, the city's biggest film event of the year isn't just here — it's well and truly underway. And while the 2018 Sydney Film Festival has now reached its official midway mark (not including the fest's just-announced three days of encores), don't think of it as halfway over. Instead, think of the rest of the week as the second act in a wonderful, fortnight-long cinema celebration. Given the huge array of ace titles still to come, there's no other way to look at it.
Still got some room left on your flexipass? Have a few gaps to fill in your schedule? If you're wondering what to see, we're here to help once again. We've been busy spending our days, nights and every waking moment in the State Theatre, Event Cinemas George Street and SFF's other venues, watching as many movies as we can get in front of our eyes. From our viewing so far, here's ten recommendations that are still playing across the remainder of the fest. Crucially, they're all excellent flicks — and you can still nab tickets for every one of them.
When Cold War won the Best Director Prize at this year's Cannes Film Festival, it really didn't come as a surprise, even to those who hadn't seen it. Polish filmmaker Pawel Pawlikowski's last movie was the meticulously shot, Oscar-winning Ida, so expecting another piece of sumptuous black-and-white mastery was a fairly safe bet. And the writer/director hasn't just delivered on those expectations — he has blown them out of the water. Set over 15 years and taking inspiration from his own parents' relationship, this sweeping European romance proves an utterly devastating exploration of love, loyalty, politics and survival set against the backdrop of its titular period. While the feature looks astonishing in every perfectly-lit frame, it also boasts exceptional performances from stars Tomasz Kot and Joanna Kulig, with the latter radiant even in moments of deep sorrow.
Cold War is screening at the Hayden Orpheum Cremorne this Sunday, June 17. You can book tickets here.
Whether you're a film tragic or just a casual festival goer, everyone has heard of Stanley Kubrick, the visionary behind such masterpieces as 2001: A Space Odyssey, Full Metal Jacket and Eyes Wide Shut. His righthand man for 30 years, Leon Vitali, doesn't enjoy the same recognition — a fate Filmworker aims to redress. The documentary's title gives an indication of the many roles its subject played in Kubrick's life, with Vitali inspired to work with the filmmaker after seeing A Clockwork Orange, then scoring a pivotal acting part in Barry Lyndon, and finally taking on any task he could to assist his mentor over the rest of Kubrick's career. The many behind-the-scenes clips on the likes of The Shining are a joy to behold, but it's Vitali frank recollections of his time spent helping someone else's genius that makes this movie such an astonishing film about filmmaking.
Filmworker is screening at the State Theatre this Wednesday, June 13 and Event Cinemas George Street on Saturday, June 16. You can book tickets here.
THE MISEDUCATION OF CAMERON POST
We'd say that the second time is the charm for filmmaker Desiree Akhavan, but the first time was too. After her fantastic comedy Appropriate Behavior proved a breakout hit back in 2014, the writer-director won the Sundance Grand Jury Prize for her next effort — and deservedly so. Set inside a gay conversion camp, the feature examines the struggles faced by the teenagers forced to attend the facility. That might sound like an excuse for a standard coming-of-age tale, just within unusual confines, but the movie's insight and emotion runs much deeper than that. Plus, Chloë Grace Moretz has never been better than playing the eponymous 16-year-old, a girl torn in multiple directions by her feelings yet still refuses to give in to anyone else's ideas about her sexuality or identity, while American Honey's Sasha Lane reminds you why she should be in more films.
The Miseducation of Cameron Post is screening at the Randwick Ritz this Sunday, June 17. You can book tickets here.
The best Australian film of 2018 might just be a 54-minute mashup of almost every other Aussie film ever made. Commissioned by Melbourne's Australian Centre for the Moving Image and now doing the rounds of local festivals across the rest of the country, Terror Nullius is the latest effort by Soda_Jerk, which should give you an indication of the kind of ride you're in for. The two-person artistic collective don't just smash together everything from Fury Road to Picnic at Hanging Rock to Please Like Me to BMX Bandits — with Tony Abbott's speeches, Mel Gibson's infamous hate-filled phone call and Aussie bicentennial celebrations from 1988 — but mix it all up to convey a forceful message about the current state of the nation. From the moment you hear the iconic Rage intro echoing from the screen, you'll be hooked. In the words of that Iggy Pop tune, it's a real wild child.
An extra screening of Terror Nullius has been scheduled at Dendy Newtown this Monday, June 18. You can book tickets here.
THE BREAKER UPPERERS
When the cast of The Breaker Uppers walked on stage during SFF's opening night proceedings, they instantly had the crowd in stitches. When the film started, the laughter only got louder... and louder... and louder. And, thinking back on the film now, we're still laughing. Written, directed by and starring New Zealand comedians Jackie van Beek and Madeleine Sami, and executive produced by Taika Waititi, the flick is a crowdpleaser in all of the best ways, with a hilarious script, committed performances and a smart insight into the expectation that we all just want to find love and live happily after. A movie about two besties who break up unhappy couples for cash will do that, after all — and it also throws a Celine Dion music video in for good measure.
An extra screening of The Breaker Upperers has been scheduled at Dendy Newtown this Tuesday, June 19. You can book tickets here.
A rich, resonant and deeply textured performance sits at the centre of this Paraguayan feature, all thanks to lead Ana Brun. A first-timer, she actually won the Berlinale's best actress prize for her portrayal of a woman suddenly faced with fending for herself when her long-term girlfriend is incarcerated for their mounting debts. Accustomed to a life of wealth and privilege, albeit one that's been slowly waning, the quiet Chela volunteers to drive the neighbourhood's ladies around, even though she doesn't have a license. When she falls for the daughter of one of her clients, writer/director Marcelo Martinessi takes the opportunity to expose the inequities of his country in a variety of ways, while also dissecting the struggles of a woman who has always had everything — other than control over her future.
The Heiresses is screening at the State Theatre this Saturday, June 16 and Sunday, June 17. You can book tickets here.
You can't accuse Piercing of not knowing what it wants to be. A psychosexual drama about a man (Christopher Abbott) who wants to kill, the sex worker (Mia Wasikowska) he hires to be his unwitting victim and the kinks they end up indulging and testing together, this is a film with its own sense of style and personality right from the outset. Writer/director Nicolas Pesce might be adapting Ryū Murakami's 1994 novel, but the same distinctive flair that served his first effort, The Eyes of My Mother, so well is also evident here — just in a vastly different manner. Wasikowska particularly shines in a complex role, while the film's colourful visuals and intoxicating score add to its irresistible allure.
Piercing is screening at Dendy Newtown this Wednesday, June 13. You can book tickets here.
She has played everything from a bunny boiler to a calculating legal whiz to a woman living as a man during the 19th century across her lengthy career; however, in The Wife, Glenn Close is as great as she's ever been. In fact, she might even be better than that. As the movie's moniker suggests, the star takes on the role of a dutiful partner to an acclaimed writer who has just won the Nobel Prize for literature — but there's more to their story than the official version, as a reporter (Christian Slater) is eager to uncover. Every moment that Close is on screen, she offers a devastating dissection of a woman sidelined for male glory, in what proves an all-too-recognisable situation. That said, her co-star Annie Starke also impresses as the younger version of the character.
The Wife is screening at the Hayden Orpheum this Wednesday, June 13 and the State Theatre on Thursday, June 14. You can book tickets here.
YOU WERE NEVER REALLY HERE
We included You Were Never Really here on our pre-festival must-see list, but we're including it again because it's just that good. After screening at Cannes in 2017 — and deservedly winning Joaquin Phoenix the festival's best actor award for his gut-wrenching performance — it has taken some time for You Were Never Really Here to make it to our shores. Don't worry, this exceptional film is completely worth the wait. It's also one of the best movies of this or any other year. The highly anticipated latest feature from We Need to Talk About Kevin's Lynne Ramsay, the dark effort follows Phoenix's Joe, an ex-soldier and FBI agent turned hitman who rescues children from sex trafficking rings. Unsurprisingly, it's a tense, bleak dive through the mindset of a man coping with several layers of trauma; however neither Ramsay or Phoenix put a foot wrong in a feature that dials up its intense revenge thrills to astounding levels.
You Were Never Really Here is screening at Event Cinemas George Street this Sunday, June 17. You can book tickets here.
DAUGHTER OF MINE
Another title we've already enthused over, this time at Berlinale, Daughter of Mine is one of the top picks of this year's Sydney Film Festival competition. In 2015, Italian filmmaker Laura Bispuri and actress Alba Rohrwacher teamed up for Sworn Virgin, a compelling, moving film about an Albanian woman who vows to live life in the mountains, without sex and as a man rather than adhere to traditional views about female subservience — and their second collaboration also explores ideas of femininity, but in a vastly different way. It's also excellent, and exceptionally acted. As the title suggests, motherhood is in the spotlight as Rohrwacher's strong-willed Angelica and Valeria Golino's more traditionally maternal Tina grapple not only with each other, but over what's best for ten-year-old Vittoria (Sara Casu). As a Sardinian summer rolls by, the secret that connects the trio is thrust out into the open, as is a tussle between nature and nurture that shapes a young girl's journey of discovery.
Daughter of Mine is screening at the State Theatre this Thursday, June 14 and Friday, June 15. You can book tickets here.